I was in a band in high school. I know, you’re thinking ‘that’s where I’ve heard his name before!’ We were called Sweet Crazy Money and it consisted of myself and three friends. These guys are some of the best men I know now. Two or them were brothers and are still my best friends. But at the time I was mostly friends with the older brother Andy and hung out with Brent the younger brother almost exclusively for sports and band stuff. The friendships with these two would prove invaluable for, among other things, my love of hiking. See when Andy went off to college in Kentucky I hung out with Brent much more. 10 years ago I took my first real hike. It was one of the high points of my manhood.
Brent had read the book Wild At Heart by John Eldredge. He too had realized the woes of Florida life and our lack of elevation. So, he declared that he was going to climb a mountain. Five friends were joining him and I, one who relishes awkwardness because I just never feel it, invited myself to join them. The 6 of us were off into the great unknown, literally, we just drove north.
Now that I have kids an itinerary is crucial. Back then we went until we saw a mountain and a path. All I know of the location of this trip is that we were in Sapphire, North Carolina. And I only know it because of the YouTube video I made. It has it in there (I’ll post the link to the video at the bottom. It was made in 1847 so go easy on me for the editing. I think I was using DOS back then). My father signed me up for Cub Scouts and I had been on fishing trips were I’d traversed a creek or two. But up until that point in my life I had never been on an actual hike in the forest. Here’s how much of an idiot I was: 1) I bought brand new work boots for the hike. Hey, I had no idea what terrain lay outside to borders of the Sunshine State. Could be Georgia, could be Mordor. 2) For food I packed 5 raw potatoes (I’m Irish. Sue me.) and 5 cans of soup. In other words, I packed 45 pounds of food. Did I mention I didn’t bring foil to cook to potatoes in or a spoon to eat the soup with? No? Well, I didn’t bring foil to cook to potatoes in or a spoon to eat the soup with. The hike was a hilarious 5 miles. I say hilarious because at one point I thought we had gone two miles and looked over my shoulder to still see our car roughly a few hundred yards away.
The trip itself and the company were spectacular. Just some dudes who went from Boys to Men (That’s what we should have named the band! Man we blew it. No wonder we came to an end of the road). We had to cross two suspension bridges very Indiana Jones style. One morning I spotted an otter living it up in the mist of the river. I made friendships for a lifetime that I truly felt were cemented on that trip. I lived with two of the dudes in college. I went to 3 of their weddings and even DJed one. Mind you I’m not a real DJ, but I can make some magic on the ones and twos. Two of them live in different states but when they come in town I give a free basketball clinic just to remind them who the boss is.
Down side, Brent got an amoeba in his cornea that he found a few weeks later and almost lost his eye…what a wuss right?! On the way out I actually had to walk backwards because of the blisters that had formed on my heels courtesy of those sweet new Walmart boots. 0 star review by the way. We stayed 2 nights and when I left my body was a broken vessel of pain. The only cure was Burger King and big ups to the King for setting me straight. When I got home I made this video to solidify the memory. I watch it a few times a year. Honestly, it’s the reason I’m writing for this blog. It’s the reason I find solace on the trail. It’s the reason I look forward to the open air. Eventually, it will be the reason my boys and I log hours, see mountains, and eat trout we caught in a river we cook on a fire we made.
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